With foggy mountains, thick forests and rich culture, it is no wonder Artvin has been chosen as one of the top tourist destinations in the world, offering a wide range of activities, as a jewel of the Black Sea that everyone should visit least once in their lives.
Situated on the border of Georgia, Artvin was recently listed among the "Top Tourists Destinations," a report prepared by Euromonitor International. Surrounded by steep valleys carved by the Çoruh River, high mountains of Kaçkar, Karçal and Yalnızçam and forests and national parks such as the Karagöl-Sahara, which contains the lakes Şavşat and Borçka, Artvin is an alternative tourism destinations for those who like to get lost in the creations of Mother Nature.
The Black Sea region's signature climate is definitely felt in Artvin: The city is very wet and mild by the coast, and as a result is heavily forested. The rain, which is a very frequent natural phenomenon in the region, turns to snow at higher altitudes, and the peaks are very cold in winter.
Caucasian and Black Sea cultures are dominant in the region. Arvin is home to Laz people as well as the Kipchaks and Muslim Georgians who migrated to the city when the modern northern borders were draws following the Turkish War of Independence. As a city, which is a microcosm of the region it is in, Artvin has a rich cuisine as well. Hamsi, Turkish anchovies, is a main course in the city. Corn flour and kale are also highly used in the area's kitchens.
The folkloric dance, Artvin Barı, generally known as "Atabarı" as the dance that was dedicated to the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, is the signature dance of the city. Every year, the Traditional Bull Fighting Festival and Kafkasör (Caucasian Cultural Festival) are organized in the city, which attracts thousands of tourists.
However, Artvin's main tourist attraction is unquestionably its nature. Since nature is a great part of the city, both geographically and culturally, alternative tourism opportunities such as camping, skiing, jeep safari, rafting and canoeing are highly popular.
There are various routes that visitors can follow to discover the area. One of the highest mountains in Turkey, Mount Kaçkar, is probably the most covered tracking route. Mountaineering groups and mountaineers complete the Trans-Kaçkar route by walking through Yusufeli Yaylalar Village to Rize - Çamlıhemşin Ayder Highlands. If you are not up to a task that difficult, you can also follow various tracking routes through the Altıparmak Mountains.
Hunting is also allowed during the hunting season in the region. However, it is advised to hire a local guide in order not to get lost in the thick forests of Artvin.
There are three castle ruins for tourists to see in Artvin.
The first one is the Şavşat Castle located in the Söğütlü Quarter in the city. Built by the Armenian dynasty the Bagratunis in the ninth century, the castle was used by the Ottomans as well. Today the castle is abandoned but parts of its towers are still visible.
Also built by the Kingdom of Bagratuni in the 10th century, Artvin Castle is located on a huge rock near the Çoruh River.
Ardanuç Castle is perhaps one of the most important ruins in the region. Dating back to the ancient civilizations erected in the region, the castle had been an attraction because of its interior design for centuries. Even the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent was highly intrigued by this castle.
There are also several national parks within the borders of Artvin province. The most famous one is Karagöl-Sahara National Park, which was taken under state protection in 1994. Covering 3,251 hectares, the national park is composed of two different areas. The Karagöl side consists of kale and thick trees and is used as a recreational area by the locals. The Sahara part of the national park, on the other hand, is where the locals continue with the traditional Black Sea highland life.
Hatila Valley National Park consists of a steep-sided river valley at the eastern end of the Kaçkar Mountains. The area is close to the Black Sea but has a micro Mediterranean climate with warm summers, cool winters and plentiful rainfall throughout the year. The natural forest of the national park and the surrounding area is rich in wildlife. Large mammals found here include the grey wolf, red fox, lynx, leopard, brown bear, wild goat, chamois, roe deer, wild boar and European hare.
After being chosen as one of the top destinations in Turkey along with Istanbul, Antalya and Edirne, the local government of Artvin could not hide their excitement.
Speaking to the press, Artvin Governor Ömer Doğanay said: "Our city has unique natural and cultural riches. Studies show that our city is one of the few places that will not be affected by global warming. With its natural lakes, forests, water sources, rivers and cultural riches, Artvin is like a piece of heaven. I believe that Artvin will be one of the big players in the tourism industry in the years to come."
Artvin Municipality Mayor Mehmet Kocatepe also said Artvin is among the tourism destinations whose popularity rises every year.
"Artvin welcomed 2.4 million visitors last year and has already become one of the top 100 destinations in the world. We anticipate the city will welcome 2.8 million visitors by 2020," Mayor Kocatepe declared.
"Artvin is among the top six most livable cities in Turkey. Our aim is to increase our city's tourism potential without disturbing its natural and cultural wonders.
Euromonitor International's top destinations study
Released last week by London-based international market research company Euromonitor International, the top tourist destinations list consists of places from all around the world included four Turkish cities, Istanbul, Antalya, Edirne and Artvin.
According to the list, Hong Kong is the most visited city in the world with over 26.5 million visitors. Bangkok came second with over 21.2 million visitors, followed by London with over 19.2 million.
Istanbul came 15th with over 9.2 million visitors, Antalya 29th with over 6.1 million, Edirne 68th with almost 2.8 million and Artvin ranked 85th with almost 2.4 million.